Sunday, June 18, 2006

Update from the Race Wire

Bermuda Racers Reach Gulf Stream
by Laurie Fullerton

Dateline: Hamilton, Bermuda. As David St Clair Brown’s New Zealand super maxi 'Maximus’ led the fleet into the Gulf Stream yesterday (Saturday), the challenge facing all 263 crews was to pick the most advantageous point of entry into the Stream and ride the favorable back-eddies. Crossing the Stream is what makes this ocean classic a true navigator’s race.

Their second problem is the wind. If it goes light overnight as predicted, the boats will be swept along by this moving carpet of warm water and will then face the problem of punching out on the last stage of the race to Bermuda.

Television commentator Gary Jobson is racing aboard Kodiak II skippered by former winner E. Llwyd Ecclestone, Jr. As they entered the Gulf Stream yesterday, Jobson said. "The weather is considerably different to the original forecast. We approached the Gulf Stream at 11 knots which was a good morale booster. Now, tactics become all-important."

In the early days, it took a thermometer dropped into the water, to determine when you were in the Gulf Stream and help you navigate a way through the eddies and currents. Skip Sheldon, winner of the 2002 Newport/Bermuda race, who is racing his Reichel Pugh designed Zaraffa againin this Centennial race, reflected yesterday. "In those days, your boat went 5 knots at best across the Gulf Stream and invariably faced a 4 knot counter current. It all changed in the '80s when you could view the exact course of the Stream via satellite imagery. Now, some of us can average 11- 20knots. With technology, the role of the navigator has changed to one of strategist."

For Open 50 sailor Joe Harris, his fast moving Gryphon Solo was only 30 miles from the Gulf Stream at Noon on Saturday. "We are watching the sea temperature, which will rise from the mid-60 degrees F to the high 70's. We are monitoring the difference between our speed through the water and our speed over the ground so that we know exactly when we are in the Stream," he said. "The wind is forecast to go very light overnight so we hope that we can get through the Stream early so that we can maintain steerage in the fast-flowing current."

The record number of yachts participating in this year’s centennial Bermuda race was down by two from its original 265 count yesterday after the Transpac 52 Decision skippered by Stephen Murray from New Orleans, hit a submerged object on Friday night. The crew is safe and due to return to Newport.

Another early drop-out was the British Open 60 Pindar Artemis skippered by Nicholas Black after she grounded on a rock moments before the start. She was lifted out for repairs yesterday and will not be rejoining the race. – Laurie Fullerton

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